US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (file photo). Photograph:( AFP )
Blinken claimed that US has been informing France about US-UK-Australia submarine deal. But this was refuted from French circles
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday appeared to be in a damage control mode as he called France a vital partner in the Indo-Pacific. His words have come after the US-UK-Australia submarine deal. France had reacted angrily to the deal
Blinken was speaking at a press conference after meeting US and Australian foreign and defense ministers
"We cooperate incredibly closely with France on many shared priorities in the Indo-Pacific but also beyond around the world. We're going to continue to do so. We place fundamental value on that relationship, on that partnership," Blinken said.
UK-US and Australia said on Wednesday that they would establish a security partnership for the Indo-Pacific that would help Australia acquire U.S. nuclear-powered submarines and see it scrap a $40 billion French-designed submarine deal.
France reacted angrily to the loss of the deal, calling it a "stab in the back."
At the press conference, Blinken said that US officials had been in touch with their French counterparts to discuss the deal including before the announcement.
However, Reuters quoted a French official on condition of anonymity that Americans had not informed them until French officials had seen media reports about the deal.
In 2016, Australia selected French shipbuilder Naval Group to build a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion to replace its more than two-decades-old Collins submarines.
The United States and its allies are looking for ways to push back against China’s growing power and influence, particularly its military buildup, pressure on Taiwan and deployments in the contested South China Sea.
The White House on Thursday defended the US decision, rejecting criticism from both China and France over the deal.
"We do not seek conflict with China," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
China said the United States, Australia and the UK were "severely damaging regional peace and stability."
(With inputs from agencies)